Tag Archives: hampstead and kilburn

MPAC, the General Election and British Jews

With the gun for the general election having been fired British Jews are expecting open season on them and on Israel.

Even before the announcement of the May 6th election, which is expected to be close and could result in a hung Parliament with the highly anti-Israel Liberal Democrats holding the balance of power between Labour and the Conservatives, the attacks have been vicious. Recent accusations of Jewish political financing and Israel pulling the strings behind the electoral scenes have been hitting the headlines.

Martin Linton, a Labour MP, recently gave a talk in Parliament to the Friends of Al Aqsa and spoke of Israel’s “long tentacles” that fund British election campaigns and which try to buy a Conservative victory. Linton said that he failed to appreciate the Nazi symbolism of the Jewish octopus controlling the world with its tentacles and he apologised but he stands by his thesis of Israelis and pro-Israelis trying to buy a Conservative win.

At the same meeting Gerald Kaufman, a Jewish Labour MP, spoke of Lord Ashcroft owning part of the Conservative Party and right-wing Jewish millionaires owning the other part.

These are, of course, unfounded and defamatory accusations that paint many British Jews as being Fifth Columnists dedicated to another country only, Israel.

Then there is the election literature that has been doing the rounds. The Liberal Democrats are expert at manipulating the religious and ethnic sympathies of the voting public. They have already called for a ban on the sale of arms to Israel. Woe betide Israel if a hung Parliament results in Nick Clegg as Foreign Secretary as a quid pro quo for the Liberal Democrats supporting either Gordon Brown or David Cameron if neither wins a majority on May 6th.

In London there are two neighbouring constituencies where the policy of Liberal Democrats towards Israel depends wholly on the ethnic and religious make-up of the voters. In Holborn and St. Pancras, with its disproportionately high Bangladeshi community, the leaflets of the Liberal Democrat candidate scream “Stop Arming Israel”.

But in Hampstead and Kilburn, where the voters are disproportionately Jewish, the leaflets are pro-Israel with pictures of the Liberal Democrat candidate’s recent visit to Israel and there is even Hebrew writing included. Mezuzahs are very useful in determining whether to push said leaflet through a door or not.

MPAC: “Get out the Muslim vote II”

There is also the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which is sure to have a big say in some constituencies on who gets elected or not. A page on the MPAC website asks “is your MP a Zionist?” and then goes on to list those MPs and candidates that it deems to be so. You don’t have to be Jewish. The only qualification seems to be that you are affiliated to a Friends of Israel group of one of the three main political parties.

The current list contains 36 names. In 2005 Lorna Fitzsimons, now head of British Israel Communications and Research Centre, lost her seat as a Labour MP partly because of MPAC. The 2006 Report of the All Parliamentary Committee into anti-Semitism found that MPAC, in order to help unseat Fitzsimons, distributed leaflets stating “she had done nothing to help the Palestinians because she was a Jewish member of the Labour Friends of Israel”. Lorna Fitzsimons is not Jewish.

The media will play its role. The Independent has committed anti-Israel writers like Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Johan Hari and Robert Fisk and the Guardian’s Comment is Free section is replete with anti-Israel polemic. A recent Guardian editorial on the Dubai passports affair and Israel’s building in east Jerusalem spoke of Israel as “an arrogant nation that has overeached itself”. This seems to be an implicit attack not on Israel specifically but on Jews generally.

But with four weeks to go until election day we can expect Jewish and Muslim sensitivities to be manipulated to the full in order to propel a political candidate into Parliament, or to reduce their chances.

So who will you be voting for and why?

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Lib Dems launch Mezuzah War

A mezuzah.

With the general election and the Jewish festival of Passover both approaching it is ironic to see some politicians making the same decision the Almighty made when smiting the first born son of each Egyptian family to persuade Pharoah to release the Jews.

Thousands of years ago Jewish families marked the front of their own homes so the Almighty would “pass over” and leave their own first born sons unharmed. It worked and Moses was allowed by the evil Pharoah to finally lead the Jews from slavery to freedom.

This time it is the Lib Dems who are deciding which houses to “pass over” but with a view to entering not so much the Promised Land as the House of Commons.

But there’s a problem. Camden council contains the two parliamentary constituencies of Hampstead and Kilburn, where the MP is Glenda Jackson, and Holborn and St. Pancras, where the MP is Frank Dobson.

In Hampstead and Kilburn the election will be close. In 2005 Jackson got 14,615 votes and the Conservatives and Lib Dems received 10,886 and 10,293 votes respectively.

Jackson was elected as Labour MP in 1992 and with her majority on the slide ever since it is highly probable that she will be out of a job after 6th May.

In Holborn and St. Pancras in 2005 Dobson secured victory for Labour with 14,857 votes. The Lib Dems came second with 10,070 votes.

And so the Lib Dems are in with a chance of not only being in control of Camden council but they could turn Camden completely yellow if they take these two parliamentary seats as well.

But the Lib Dems are already not fighting fair before the general election has even been officially called.

Chris Philp, the Conservative Candidate, has written about the different leaflets put out by the Lib Dems depending on whether a family is Jewish or Muslim.

Chris Philp (right) at a Conservative Friends of Israel event

We know how horrendous the Lib Dems are about Israel.

Without needing to mention Baroness Jenny Tonge, Chris Davies MEP and Sarah Teather MP the most hostile of all to Israel, because he is the one who ultimately makes the decisions, is Nick Clegg MP, the Lib Dem leader.

Clegg advocates Israel being left without any defence against Hamas rocket barrages by calling for Israel to be disarmed.

So if Nick Clegg becomes Foreign Secretary, a distinct possibility with recent opinion polls implying a hung parliament, Israeli citizens could be fearing for their lives.

Clegg’s hostile attitude is now reproduced in Lib Dem leaflets in Holborn and St Pancras, with its large Bangladeshi community, where Israel is continuously vilified by Jo Shaw, the Lib Dem candidate.

“Stop Arming Israel” screams her leaflets.

Jo Shaw's leaflet in the Holborn and St Pancras constituency

But if you are living in the adjoining constituency of Hampstead and Highgate, with its disproportionately high Jewish population, the story is completely different.

There, Ed Fordham, the Lib Dem candidate has inserted into his leaflets photos of himself in Israel and has even included Hebrew. These leaflets are aimed at placating the Jewish households.

Chris Philp thinks that the Lib Dems might “have compiled a list of Jewish people in the area”.

It is much easier than that. All these crafty Lib Dems need do is see if there is a Mezuzah on the front door. If there is then through the letterbox goes the Israel-friendly leaflet. If there isn’t then that letterbox gets “passed over”.

Ed Fordham (left) in Israel

Sadly, attempting to manipulate the feelings of religious minorities has paid off before. In the 2005 General Election Lorna Fitzsimons, the then Labour MP, lost in Rochdale.

The 2006 Report of the All Parliamentary Committee into anti-Semitism found that the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, in order to help unseat Fitzsimons, distributed leaflets stating “she had done nothing to help the Palestinians because she was a Jewish member of the Labour Friends of Israel”.

One problem, Lorna Fitzsimons is not Jewish.

A similar deligitimising campaign is already underway against Luciana Berger who is standing as the Labour Party candidate in the Liverpool Wavertree constituency. She has already been labelled that “well-known Zionist”.

I am sure that the average voter is savvy enough not to be fooled by Lib Dem mind games but at least when Jewish families are sat around their passover tables and they hear that political leaflet drop on to the mat they will finally be able to answer that all important Passover question:

Why is this political leaflet different from all other political leaflets?

Luciana Berger: Liverpool Wavertree's Labour Candidate